Pitching an influencer can be soul-crushing. After sending a highly-targeted pitch, you can spend the next few days wondering whether or not your email was even opened, and in all honesty the numbers aren’t in your favor: Top-tier publishers average 500 pitches per week while some publishers receive more than 300 pitches a day!
So how can you break through the noise and improve your outreach efforts? Remind yourself that above all else, your goal is establishing a mutually beneficial relationship, and you can do this by following this simple blogger outreach equation:
Search, engage, convince, action, and reciprocity – or SECAR – are essentials for any successful outreach effort because they help connect your content to key themes every influencer is looking for: relevance, interest, and new data that provides value to their audience.
Here I’ll walk you through each element of SECAR so you can begin to maximize relationships with key influencers even before your initial interaction.
1. Search: How to locate highly-targeted opportunities.
Every outreach effort should begin with one simple idea: regardless of your content, there are influencers that are engaging your target audience every day. Depending on how long you’ve worked in the industry, you can probably name some – including their emails – off the top of your head. However, this list is always expanding: more and more influencers are added each day, so how do you find them?
A great place to start is a simple Google search of your topic. Right away you’ll be directed to a list of sites who are potential targets. Remember, though, that you’re looking for highly-targeted opportunities, so you’ll want to vet all of these sites before pitching your content. Browse each site and keep an eye out for connections to your content, including:
- Related verticals: keep in mind that your content could work for multiple verticals.
- Editorial guidelines: some influencers restrict third-party visuals (i.e. don’t pitch them).
- Social engagement: this is everything from the total number shares a post earns to the number of comments.
Out of those three, social engagement is arguably the most important – especially when pitching exclusive content. Content marketers realize that great content is what engages your audience and drives traffic, but you want to make sure this content is landing in front of a highly-engaged audience.
BuzzStream recently introduced BuzzStream Discovery, a tool that helps you uncover an influencer’s online presence. Through a simple search, you’ll be able to find an influencer’s Twitter handle, verticals they cover, recent posts and publications they write for frequently. You’ll also see the average number of shares their posts earn – this is crucial when determining whether or not someone should receive an exclusive.
Checking out an influencer’s Twitter account you found on Discovery? You can use the social platform to narrow your influencer search even further. Twitter offers a ton of ways to sift through their active users. Some tips and tricks:
- Hashtags are a great way to find out who is tweeting about related content. Take a closer look at accounts that are using hashtags related to your content in order to list build (i.e. figure out the big names these users are following).
- If you want to find someone who covers digital media for instance, simply searching for “digital media editor” can direct you to a list of accounts with that query in their profile.
- Take a look at who targeted publishers are following; there’s a good chance they’re following influencers related to their site.
Remember to record the accounts of influencers you’ll want to target later through extensions like BuzzMarker so that you can easily reference them before your pitch. Influencers are busy people, but tools like BuzzStream Discovery are a quick and easy way for you to streamline the list building process while finding out more about each influencer. After all, they’re human just like you, so paying close attention to what they’re writing and tweeting about is your ticket to the top of their inbox.
2. Engage (Social): Before you reach out, find out a little bit more.
Building relationships with influencers is essential to any campaign’s success, and how you interact with these influencers can make all the difference. In any relationship – whether it’s with a personal friend or influencer – first impressions are everything, and like any relationship, your outreach efforts need to remember that a genuine, personal connection is valued above all else. This is how you need to approach every influencer.
Again, they’re people just like you: their time is precious and they specialize in certain areas more than others. Once you’ve done your homework (i.e. determine if your content aligns with their beat, understand how they want to be pitched, etc.), you’re ready for you initial interaction, but keep in mind that in-person social norms should be applied to your online behavior. In other words, don’t be a creep. Some habits to avoid:
- Replying to tweets more than a week old: It’s a red flag for stalking – don’t do it.
- Mentioning something extremely personal in an initial email: If you know there’s a good chance you’ll get an “out of office” response because you determined an influencer is on their honeymoon, don’t mention it and save your email for later.
- Automatically asking an influencer to connect on LinkedIn without a previous interaction: You’ve received these invites – they’re weird.
- Commenting on a previous posts that adds no value: They’ll be notified of the comment, and they’ll realize you’re looking to benefit from the relationship more than they are.
Bottom line: use common sense. Your goal is a personal connection, and you should always remember to be polite and genuine with influencers. However, you’re probably thinking, “People have the tendency to overshare on social media, so where should I draw the line?” You want to bond through a personal connection, but you also want to make this connection in the context of their entire online presence. Do they respond to people on Twitter frequently? Is their writing style a bit more humorous than others? An influencer’s personality can vary significantly between their social networks and their posts. Identify these distinctions and respect any limits.
A tip for three different channels:
- Previous posts: If they publish posts frequently, comment on a post with something that adds value – like a particular stat you enjoyed or an assumption of yours that their data disproved.
- Social media: You can also help promote their content through your own social networks. If you enjoyed a particular post, share it in a tweet and tag them so they’ll see it.
- Email: If you noticed there is a mistake in one of their posts, shoot the influencer a quick note about the edit – they’ll appreciate your discretion and the chance to make the change before a troll mentions it publicly.
Whether your initial interaction is a tweet or an email, remember that you always want to keep it brief – especially if this is your first time contacting the editor. Even if it doesn’t end in a placement, it’s great way to ensure future responses.
3. Convince: How to tell an influencer you’re in it for the relationship and not the link.
Keep in mind that when you’re pitching an influencer, you’re asking them for their most precious commodity: time. And it isn’t something most are willing to give away easily, so how do you stand out?
Key influencers tend to be early adopters. They’ll appreciate your latest insights as much as you enjoyed uncovering them. If you’ve got something new, tell them. However, they want more than just your statistics – they want a story. Below are a few simple ways to do this:
- Connect your content to a trending topic.
- Show how your data disproves an existing assumption.
- Emphasize the timeliness.
- Explain how your content expands on habits related to a specific group.
You’ll also want to make sure your pitch highlights how your content is mutually beneficial. Some techniques that affirm this include the following:
- Offer the exclusive.
- Emphasize how your content has created vial stories in the past with links to previous posts – this level of engagement is invaluable to any publisher.
- If your content uses a publisher’s data as a source, appeal to their ego and highlight this in your subject line (e.g. “Most Social Publishers: MTV has the Most Followers on Facebook [Exclusive]”).
- Offer to collaborate with an editor at a top-tier publisher; this guarantees you’re filling their needs and earning a placement.
The easiest way to convince an influencer is by reminding them that you are offering something original, and help the influencer write the story by providing context to your content in your initial pitch.
4. Action: Here’s how you get an influencer to publish.
An editor responded to your pitch, now what? You need to convince them why they should publish your content, and you can do that in just three simple steps.
Step 1: Identify gaps in coverage and highlight how your data fills this void.
Once you’ve determined an editor is a good fit for your content, you’ll want to do some digging through their previous posts. Identify key themes in their coverage and then compare it to your content. Does your data provide new insights? Can you connect your content to a trending news topic? Have they covered a similar story before that earned high shares? Your pitch should help answer these questions, and you’ll want to highlight the answers in your pitch via bullet points; you want to make sure they stand out and are easy to find.
Step 2: Offer the editor options.
More often than not, your team will be pitching more than one campaign for a client. A great way to encourage an editor to cover your content is by pitching them two or three different assets – the option of multiple assets will allow an editor to take more ownership of the story, ultimately increasing the likelihood of a placement.
However, some clients aren’t always comfortable including more than one campaign in a single pitch. If that’s the case, offer to tailor your assets to the interested editor’s publication. Some options include changing the color scheme or reworking a dynamic asset into a static asset.
Step 3: End with a clear CTA.
This is a no-brainer: every pitch should always close by asking for some sort of response. A few popular CTAs include the following:
- Offer the exclusive: “Are you interested in sharing the exclusive with your readers?”
- Acknowledge a definitive deadline: “Would you be interested in covering this story? If I don’t hear from you by Friday, I’ll continue to pitch elsewhere.”
- If you’re published elsewhere, offer to write the post for the editor and include links to your previous work: “Interested in sharing the exclusive with your readers? Depending on your bandwidth, I’d be happy to put a post together for you.”
Again, influencers are very busy people, so to ensure they follow through with a placement, keep these two habits in mind:
- Respond promptly: An influencer’s’ time is valuable; if you’ve worked this hard and earned their attention, don’t let it slip away.
- Don’t bombard an influencer with follow ups: Even if you’ve received interest from an influencer and all you’re doing is waiting to see the post live, respect their time and be courteous with your follow up emails.
5. Reciprocity: An ongoing step.
Whether you earned a placement or simply a decline, it’s important to maintain a relationship with any editor that responds to you. Aside from sending a thank you email, you can stay on an influencer’s radar through these simple habits:
- Comment on their latest posts, even if they are unrelated to your content.
- Send emails that include content the influencer might enjoy.
- Connect with them on multiple social networks, ideally right after they publish your content.
- Offer to collaborate with future research.
The biggest takeaway? Remember that outreach is a marathon and not a sprint: Aside from getting your content promoted, building relationships with key influencers is what will pay off in the long run. Your goal is to create a mutually beneficial relationship, and by following the steps outlined in SECAR, you’ll form an invaluable connection with key influencers.
Great post! After getting myself geared up for a proper push, I’m going to be focusing a lot on starting this strategy, testing it and seeing how it works out.
In fact, I’m planning on writing a blog post collating the expertise of people and companies who do a great job with influencer marketing. That way, I can create insightful content and get a few cheeky lessons myself.
Would you be willing to contribute? 🙂